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Congressman Lamar Smith Visits ATEC Member Hallmark University

As a part of the Aviation Technician Education Council’s (ATEC) constant legislative engagement, Hallmark University’s (HU) College of Aeronautics hosted Congressman Lamar Smith, Representative from the 21st Congressional District of Texas, in April 2017.

Congressman Smith serves as chairman of the Science, Space, and Technology Committee, which has jurisdiction over the Environmental Protection Agency, NASA, the Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation, the Federal Aviation Administration, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

ATEC’s Legislative Chair, Jay Gregson (Provost, HU), as well as HU’s founder, Richard Fessler; university president, Brent Fessler; chancellor, Joe Fisher; and director of Hallmark College of Aeronautics Cecilio Rodriguez, met and briefed Congressman Smith on the ATEC legislative agenda and fly-in this September, as well as local initiatives, like HU’s new College Head Start Institute (Aero CHI) Program with Northside Independent School District and free summer intensive programs for middle/high school students.

Industry Background and Need for Employees

Gregson explained some of the issues affecting aviation maintenance technician schools (AMTS) governed by the FAA under Part 147, airframe and powerplant (A&P) technician programs, and who are represented by ATEC. Discussions focused on the outdated FAR Part 147, which has not been updated in decades and stifles a school’s abilities to train in current technologies. Talks also covered government funding for personnel in the field, help with limited access to training equipment, and relief from several burdensome Department of Education and FAA regulatory requirements levied on AMTS schools. Gregson couched these issues as he serves as a board member and Legislative Committee Chair at ATEC, a nonprofit council that supports Part 147 schools nationwide.

Discussions also included the San Antonio Economic Development Foundation’s report that over 13,000 San Antonio employees work in the aerospace industry, and the fact that Boeing projects a worldwide need for 679,000 new AMTs over the next 20 years. In helping solve this gap, the team shared that HU produces more FAA licensed graduates than any other program in Texas, and ranks as one of the top 10 schools in the United States for these certification outcomes. Further, HU graduates have garnered a strong reputation around the aviation industry for their character (soft skills), as well as their technical prowess, making them highly sought after by top aviation companies worldwide. HU has placed over 90 percent of their graduates (all programs) within their career field within 90 days of graduation (and obtaining their certifications).

Training Opportunities and Outreach

The team also briefed Congressman Smith on the college experience HU will offer to San Antonio high school students, at no cost, through the university’s annual summer intensives program. These summer intensives are aimed at helping high school students explore various academic/career fields of study, the opportunities they present, and lessening the level of uncertainty experienced by many students as they approach high school graduation. In addition, these intensives can provide the opportunity for some students to obtain professional certifications free of charge.

Brent Fessler described HU’s partnership with North East ISD Aero CHI Program, which is an FAA-approved training program designed to prepare students for a career in aerospace maintenance technology (AMT). Upon successful completion of this program, graduates will have earned 27 semester credit hours or nearly half of an Associates in Applied Science (AAS) degree in airframe technology, which saves over $10,000 in tuition, if continuing at Hallmark University. The program is scheduled to start during the 2017-18 academic year.

Congressman Smith said, “It is refreshing to see educators and industry working together to solve these complex issues and securing hope for our leaders of tomorrow.”

Cecilio Rodriguez is the director of Hallmark University’s College of Aeronautics in San Antonio, TX. He joined Hallmark after spending 10 years working in Colombia as a military contractor for the U.S. State Department. Prior to that, he served 20 years in the Air Force as a fighter aircraft crew chief and as an aircraft maintenance instructor. Cecilio is an FAA Airframe and Powerplant mechanic and a Private Pilot for fixed and rotary wing aircraft. He is a member of the Aviation Technician Education Council (ATEC) regulatory committee.


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